19 SES 03, Ethics and Research in Educational Ethnography (Part 2)
Symposium continued from 19 SES 02
Research ethics committees and guidelines are, perhaps, necessary for helping researchers, who have the moral and practical responsibility for acting responsibly to constantly interrogate their research practices throughout the lives and after-lives of their projects. They must have a care for participants in their research projects to protect them from harm; only carry out research that is beneficial to society; and only collect data that is relevant to their study. When researching inside educational institutions they need to behave carefully when speaking with others to avoid revealing their sources of information if these are other participants. This means being aware of space, including online spaces, – such as where one is sitting, to whom one is listening/ talking, who may be listening to you even if they are not your co-locuter, what photographs or field notes to take … and how to protect the anonymity of the actors in them. They need to make research participants aware of ethical practice, such as knowing when to stop a digital recorder being used for interviews … and when to start it again … as well as explaining why they cannot pass judgements on any practices in the research site even when other participants ask a researcher for her / his views. Similarly gossip heard within the research context/ situation cannot be passed on to others inside or outside the research context. When storing and writing up data, whether interview transcripts, observation records (including photographs) or institutional documents, during and after a project researchers must take care to preserve participants’ anonymity, including the anonymity of their institutions, however they name or code participants and institutions. In educational institutions children/ students offer important insights as expert witnesses of teaching, learning and organisational practices from the perspectives of those with limited formal power/ influence, in part through their long experiences of those practices. Involving children actively in research raises their self-esteem by recognising their importance as people and participants in school/ college processes, but it also has to acknowledge students’ agency and their right to refuse to be participants in a study, even if they are only being observed as part of a lesson. Children need to benefit from their involvement in research through, for example, learning and/ or practicing why research is carried out in a certain way so that they can carry out ethical research themselves.
Busher, H. & James, N. (2015) In pursuit of ethical research: Studying hybrid communities using online and face-to-face communications. Educational Research & Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice, Special Issue on Ethical Issues in Online Research 21 (2) 168-181. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13803611.2015.1024011 Busher, H. & James, N. (2012) Ethics of research in education. In Briggs, A. Coleman, M. & Morrison, M. (eds) Research Methods in Educational Leadership and Management 3rd Edn, (Chapter 7, pp.90-104). London: Sage ISBN: 9781446200445
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